Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Voluntary audit shows diocese in compliance with Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Dec. 18, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

Roberta Smith was named Victims Assistance Coordinator for the Spokane Diocese in February 2008. (IR photo by Deacon Eric Meisfjord)

In a letter to Bishop William Skylstad dated Nov. 23, 2008, William A. Gavin, of the Gavin Group, Inc., in Winthrop, Mass. wrote, in part: “Based on the analysis of the results of the 2008 Full Audit of the Diocese of Spokane, you have been found to be in compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

“The audit is of importance,” said Bishop Skylstad, “to assure that we in the diocese are in compliance with the Charter. Through these audits the bishops want to demonstrate that we take the Charter very seriously.”

The Charter was passed by the U.S. bishops in 2002, setting out protocols to help create safe environments for children and vulnerable adults within Catholic communities.

Roberta Smith began work as the diocese’s Victim Assistance Coordinator (VAC) last February.

“We actually volunteered to be audited this year since there were many changes happening with Mary Butler leaving the Victim Assistance Coordinator position and the potential retirement of Bishop Skylstad,” she said. “We all believed that an audit would be helpful for me, being new to the VAC position, to fully understand the Charter and keep the diocese on track in maintaining its outstanding record of compliance. The great news is that, thanks to the hard work of everyone, the surveyors found the diocese to be in complete compliance with the Charter. The next bit of good news is that we will not have an on-site audit again for three years.”

Dr. Duane Schafer, Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Spokane, elaborated: “The audit is a requirement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to insure that all dioceses are meeting the expectations of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. It also is a means by which we can receive recommendations on how to more effectively implement the Charter here in the Diocese of Spokane.”

“The auditors were pleased with our full compliance with the Charter,” Bishop Skylstad said. “They also spot-checked several of the parishes. They were also very pleased with the work of Roberta Smith, our Victim Assistance Coordinator, and the Education Office, which oversees the record keeping and the safe environment training.”

Dr. Schafer said the auditors were “very complimentary (about) the work that is being done in the diocese to protect our children, and they especially commended us on our training and background check record-keeping procedures for clergy, employees, and volunteers.”

“This year,” Smith said, “two auditors did an in-depth assessment of our records, policies/procedures and documentation with a strong emphasis on parish audits. One of the auditors, Kathleen, met with 19 different people at individual parishes throughout the diocese. Although we were invited to submit a list of parishes for the auditors to visit, when they arrived they decided to personally select which parishes to interview…. Kathleen also dropped by a few churches to check for the Safe Environment brochures. She was very complimentary (about) all the parishes she visited and the people she interviewed. Since many of the people she met with were informed of her visit only shortly before she arrived, the fact that she found the parishes prepared and knowledgeable says a lot about how seriously we all take our responsibilities to educate and train our children and protect them from harm.

“While Kathleen was busy at the parishes, Larry reviewed the diocese’s records, policies and procedures and interviewed multiple people,” said Smith. “He also spoke with two victims who came forward in 2008 (about) abuse years ago, regarding their treatment by the VAC and the diocese…. (He) spoke highly of the foresight and commitment of the Review Board.”

As the effort continues, Dr. Schafer said that the diocese needs to “continue to work on getting all children and youth in the diocese trained in personal safety. Although all parishes with programs for children and youth do provide these trainings, we still had a significant number of children and youth who did not attend the trainings. Research clearly finds that children and youth who have been trained regarding child sexual abuse are more likely to report the abuse than children who have not received the training.”

“Although we were found in compliance,” Smith said, “as all good surveyors do, they gave us a few suggestions and ideas to work on in the future. One opportunity for me personally was (the suggestion that I) meet the priests and educators in the parishes so when they need to contact the VAC they will know who they are talking to…. One of my goals for 2009 is to get out…and visit with all the parishes. I look forward to that.”

Bishop Skylstad said that he is “most grateful to all who have worked hard to make sure that we have reached full compliance with the Charter. As we look to the future we need to continue to be vigilant as we provide a safe environment for our youth and children.”

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